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VOL. 128 | NO. 227 | Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Council Approves Crosstown Plans and Water Rate Hike

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members approved the Crosstown planned development Tuesday, Nov. 19, marking the latest move through local government for the $180 million project with construction scheduled to begin late this year or early next year.

The council also approved a 2.13 percent hike in Memphis Light Gas and Water Division water rates. The rate hike takes effect with January meter readings.

MLGW president Jerry Collins said it amounts to 31 cents more a month on the utility bill of the average residential customer in Memphis.

Last year, the utility sought a five-percent water rate increase and it was voted down by the council.

Collins said the water rate hike approved Tuesday by the council is to meet an additional $1.7 million in expenses in the water division and avoid having two consecutive years of negative net income in the water division. The water division is forecast to end the current year with $500,000 of positive net income.

State laws allow the state to set utility rates for a utility after two consecutive years of negative net income and Collins said those Tennessee cities in which the state has intervened have seen rate hikes by the state that were higher than what the utilities involved had contemplated.

The council also delayed action Tuesday on third and final reading of an ordinance that would create a retirement supplement for sanitation workers. The council is now scheduled to vote on the ordinance at its Dec. 3 meeting.

That is when the council is scheduled to vote on a plan to overhaul city sanitation services. The plan, agreed to by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents sanitation workers, would lead to savings that would fund the supplement.

The council delayed action on the plan earlier this year saying it wanted to vote on the overhaul of sanitation services and the supplement as it also heard Wharton’s highly anticipated proposal to fund more of the city’s unfunded pension liability.

Wharton contends the supplement is not a pension. Some council member disagree.

The council also delayed voting Tuesday on a proposal by council member Lee Harris for $300,000 in city funding for a set of concrete pads Downtown for trash compactors several Downtown businesses plan to buy to stop using dumpsters. The item goes back on the council agenda for the Jan. 21 council session.

Meanwhile, the council approved on the first of three readings a connected ordinance that would drop the monthly dumpster fee on Downtown and Medical Center businesses with dumpsters in public right of ways from $500 to $200.

The council also approved selling the old Highland Branch library, 460 S. Highland Ave., to the University of Memphis for $475,000 which was its approximate appraised value.

The university plans to use the old library as part of its larger plan for reorienting the campus entrance to a western border on Highland.

PROPERTY SALES 51 333 19,446
MORTGAGES 68 383 22,433
BUILDING PERMITS 138 688 40,004
BANKRUPTCIES 34 238 12,486